I don’t believe in writers’ block. I did when I was younger. I went about my mundane business, waiting for an inspiration to arrive and hit me like lightning. I would write fast and brilliantly and create a masterpiece in an hour. After that, I would not write for weeks, waiting for the next strike of lightning. I believed inspiration worked like this: it hit me fast and was full of colours. It took me through orgasm and left me luxuriating in that post-state of satisfaction and pleasure. Then came depression, the time where there was nothing to write about. My mind was a mess of schedules, lists, tasks; my body overwhelmed with constant routine of work-shop-work, work-chemist-work, work-kids-pickup-work, work-bank-work, work-taxidriving-work, work –waitingforkidsactivitiestoend-work, work-housechores-work, work-clean-up-work, work-answer important call from school-work, work.
I did not believe in myself. That was the root of the problem. I considered it a basic fact that great artists didn’t go short of inspiration. They created so many masterpieces because they were always inspired. I did not realise that inspiration was work. One had to sweat at it, invest time and effort; to free the mind of garbage to allow the creation to come forth.
Joseph Haydn, one of the greatest classical composers of Western musical culture, affectionately known as Father Haydn, would compose every day. He got up early in the morning, said a prayer to God to grant him inspiration, and started working.
Johan Sebastian Bach’s input into the Western Art music has been at times described by biographers with the use of metaphor: a room, completely filled with manuscripts from floor to ceiling, from one corner to another. Bach composed over 1100 music works. Given that he died at the age of 65, he would have had to produce on average 16-20 compositions per year, provided that he had started to record his music when he was five. For Bach, writing music was his job. He was doing it on a regular basis. If he had difficulties being inspired, which we will never know, he overcame them with his persistence and diligence.
Thomas Edison, the great inventor, considered invention as 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.
Mark Twain believed “if the writer does not sweat, than the reader will.”
“If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all,” Anne Tyler argued.
Writing is work. It is fun for those passionate about it, but it is still work. I learnt this simple truth when I met Claire Gaskin, my creative writing mentor at Sandybeach Centre. By the time the road brought me to Claire, I already realised that writing was something I could not live without. For me, it was a need, like drinking and breathing. I carried notebooks in my bag. I scribbled on envelopes and tissue boxes. I had a diary that I would enter sometimes. And I would still create on inspiration, not really searching for it or being proactive.
Claire taught me, that as writers, we have to take responsibility for inspiring ourselves: taking on a project, researching a theme, trying a new form, using an automatic pilot and doing free writing exercises.
Writers are recording artists. We write what we hear and what we see through the prism of our own feelings and personalities. If we have nothing to write about at the moment, then it is time for gathering, hibernating information in our minds, allowing it to settle until the time when it is ready to become a creative production.
There is always something to write about. As life continues, so do the words come. If there are thoughts in your mind – there are words. Experiencing block means a writer has nothing to say, nothing to share with others. Then just wait, gather, collect, harvest the stories.
Writing is a discipline. Those who have developed a habit of regular writing, cannot complain of creative blockage. They, probably, have a number of projects going on at once. If writers’ block is a “condition” or type of illness, I would describe it as the condition of being lazy, not putting in enough effort. Don’t complain of the writer’s block if you have not invested time and effort.
If you call yourself a writer, then write. Write. Write. Write. Have a notebook and a pen with you at all times. Scribble on paper. Jot down whatever comes to your mind. Stop at the curb of the road and shorthand those thoughts or the words people say.
30 May 2015/Melbourne